Pitting together the USA, Korea Republic and Brazil, all champions of their respective continents, as well as European surprise packages Poland, Group D was expected to be one of the most closely contested and exciting in the competition. And it certainly lived up to its billing. Right up until the final matchday, all four teams were in with a chance of making it into the knockout stages. And along the way they treated fans in Montreal and Ottawa to a feast of football, serving up 20 goals and a series of matches full of excitement and suspense...
USA vs. Uruguay, 11 July, Toronto
Spain vs. Brazil, 11 July, Burnaby
Argentina vs. Poland, 12 July, Toronto
•USA: After being severely tested by Korea Republic in a 1-1 draw, the Americans went on to decimate a Polish defence that had been so magnificent against Brazil, inflicting on the Europeans a crushing 6-1 reverse. That game will be best remembered as the moment Freddy Adu finally lived up to the immense expectations that have weighed him down for years. The Ghanaian-born attacker was not the only one to catch the eye, with midfield duo of Danny Szetela and Sal Zizzo also putting in memorable performances. The rest had better watch out - the Stars and Stripes are looking sharp...
•Poland: This surprise package showed great resilience to bounce back from their mauling at the hands of the USA in their second match. Prior to that, the Europeans had pulled off one of the results of the group stages by beating Brazil 1-0, despite having to play much of the game with just 10 men. They rediscovered their defensive solidity against the Korea Republic, thwarting the relentless attacks of the Asian champions to secure second spot in the group. Forward Dawid Janczyk stood out on what is a well-oiled collective, and a special mention must also go to goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski, who was exceptional against the South Koreans.
•Brazil: The biggest disappointment of the group stages,
Auriverdes are into the last sixteen but only through the
back door. Ineffective in attack in their first game, they were
better against the South Koreans, but still had to survive a major
scare in the last five minutes, while they were outplayed by the
United States in their final game. Clearly, Nelson Rodrigues'
team are not at their best. Nonetheless, in Alexandre Pato they
have an exceptional talent, while Marcelo has looked strong in
defence, as has Ji Parana in the middle.
•Korea Republic: Despite playing, arguably, the most attractive football of the group stages, the South Koreans must be wondering how they will not be gracing the Round of 16. As ever, the Red Devils' main problem was their chronic inability to convert their chances. Tactically flawless and capable of maintaining a high tempo for 90 minutes, the Asian champions also boast a number of very talented individuals, not least their playmaker Shim Young Sung, forward Shin Young Rok, and midfielder Lee Sang Ho.
Moments to savour
• Freddy Adu's first goal of three against Poland. A surging run down the right was followed by a clever feint before Adu executed a 360-degree turn and curled a shot into the far corner of the net.
• Amaral's delightful goal celebration, following his strike against Korea Republic. The Brazilian winger stuffed the ball inside his shirt to improvise a touching tribute to his girlfriend, who is several months pregnant.
• The double nutmeg from South Korean star Shim Young Sung that left a poor Polish defender completely bamboozled. His opponent must still be wondering what happened.
• The incredible atmosphere and noise inside Montreal's closed stadium when the Korea Republic pulled the score back to 3-2 against Brazil, after being 3-0 down. The Taeguk Warriors' fans packing the stands went wild.
• Bartosz Bialkowski's last-gasp heroics against the South Koreans. The Polish keeper had to be at full stretch to stop a header from Lee Sang Ho that looked destined for the back of his net.
The numbers game
Twenty goals were scored in the group, making an average of 3.33 per game - by far the highest total of the first round. The Americans topped the scoring rankings with nine goals, six of them coming against Poland. Also of note was the total of 48 shots on goal, 21 of them from Korea Republic, who unfortunately proved themselves to be masters of the missed chance.
The final word
Michal Globisz, Poland head coach: "Football is not like figure skating, you don't get points for style. We played to our strengths against the Koreans and adapted our game to counter theirs. In the end it's the result that counts."